Late to the party

Dry January is not usually a thing with me. I try to do an alcohol-free month at least once a year — but it usually does not align with an actual calendar month. Once I get the idea, I like to get on with it before I change my mind.

I had some wine and cider over the New Years weekend. Nothing excessive. But by the time I finished the cider on Monday I felt a bit jaded from the taste of it. I had bought something a bit too sweet for my taste. Dry January kept being mentioned on the radio (I have BBC Radio 4 on all day) — and suddenly it seemed like a good idea, even though it was already three days in. But I will just have to stick with it a few days into February.

My drinking habit is more than my doctor would recommend. I have a can of wine (equivalent to half bottle) 3-4 nights a week. Occasionally I can polish off a whole bottle and I’ve been doing that a bit more often in the last six months, which is another reason I decided to jump on Dry January while I feel motivated.

Truth be told, I do not know why I am so hesitant to just give it up permanently. I am not addicted and do not undergo any trauma when I am not drinking. I have no regular social life and rarely get invited anywhere. And going out to a pub is still not a normal experience. But I really enjoy my evenings with a can of wine and streaming one of my favorite TV shows. I can enjoy the experience without the wine — but the wine is the icing on the cake that I really miss when I have to enjoy the cake undecorated.

Part of the trouble is that after a month of not drinking, I am not experiencing any obvious improvements that motivate me to keep going. I do not lose weight, because the calories I save from wine (which are hardly excessive anyway) are usually offset by consuming calories in other things. I do not save money, because instead of spending $5 on a can of wine I spend $5 on soft drinks (although in winter I am happy with hot tea, which does help.) I do not notice that I sleep better or have more energy. I do not look or feel healthier. And my anxiety is still every bit as bad!

The other problem is that, except for the occasional pint at a pub, my drinking takes place in the safety of my own home, and rarely enough to involve a hangover. The morning after a can of wine, I feel exactly the same as I do the morning after drinking herbal tea. So it is not noticeably disrupting my life.

For much of my forties, I drank around 2 bottles of wine a day — which DOES disrupt your life. When I cut back to only drinking Friday-Sunday I quickly saw a huge improvement in quality of life. After a few months I was encouraged to stop for a month, after which the daily 2-bottle habit was pretty much dead. Then my habit became around 2 bottles a week — something made much easier with the advent of wine in a can!

Given my history of excessive drinking (going back to my early twenties), I probably should not be drinking at all. But I am very torn. Most mornings I wake up wishing I had not. I am not suicidal — but I am rather ambivalent about living a long lifespan. The future terrifies me and I really find nothing to hope for or look forward to. So I often question the wisdom of forgoing something I enjoy in order save myself from early death.

But I am annoyed and miserable and despondent enough right now to give this a go. Going without alcohol might just take my mind off things!

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